The Ottumwa Courier

Wapello County

May 28, 2014

Help fight hunger

OTTUMWA — The groups began with a question: How to better help Wapello County residents who don't have enough decent food. Next week, they'll decide if they've found any answers.

The food security project, Growing Wapello Together, had small groups meeting for more than a month. Those groups brainstormed to decide on local obstacles and possible solutions.

From 5:30-8:30 p.m. June 5, all seven groups will send representatives to the Food Security Action Summit in Ottumwa.

"We're going to have an update and overview of the project," said Amber Payne, a food consultant with Payne Enterprises.

She is leading what was previously called the food security "consortium," a council created with someone from each interested community service agency in the area.

After the overview, the whole group will, for the first time, hear what the other small groups have been working on. Each group chose three of their top ideas and will send a small-group spokesperson to present those ideas at the Thursday event.

"It's going to be a collection of all the action items that each of the groups came up with. Participants will vote on which action ideas [to] move forward with. We'll probably pick the top three ideas from those," said Payne.

Action, organizers say, is a key word because solving a problem like food insecurity doesn't happen simply by talking about it.

"We have to strike a balance between research and action," said Desiree Johnson, director of the United Way of Wapello County, during a previous interview on the movement.

"We're looking for funding for those items that might need financial resources. We're also looking for other resources [for volunteers], meeting space, copying, printing," said Payne.

Before the small groups came up with their ideas for realistic solutions, they had three weeks of buildup. Volunteers went over statistics, like the one revealing that one in four of Wapello County children are food insecure. They learned what it means to be food secure: access to enough healthy food to live a healthy life. They also discussed possible obstacles to food security: poverty, poor transportation and lack of knowledge over what to feed a child — or oneself.

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